Saturday, May 18, 2013

Vindication and justification for the Tea Party movement in one fell swoop

For many people on the left, the Tea Party movement remains something of an enigma; since the beginnings of the movement, such people have never been able to come to terms with it, to process it, to understand the real "why" behind it. And this lack of understanding quickly morphed into misunderstanding, when various individuals and groups attempted to co-opt the movement for their own political goals, even attempted to assume leadership roles of the movement.

This is an important thing to understand. I've discussed the actual roots of the Tea Party movement previously, so I'll simply quote myself in this regard:
The tea party movement is rooted not in opposition to Barack Obama--something so many otherwise intelligent people just cannot accept--but in the last months of the Bush Administration and the Bailout bill, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. It wasn't called the tea party movement yet, but the people "riled up" by this bill are the same ones that showed up at the earliest tea party-style protests on tax day in 2009. Rick Santelli, of course, is the one who thrust the idea of a tea party into the national conscience with his off-the-cuff remarks a few months earlier--February 19, 2009--live on CNBC (of all places) at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Here's Michelle Malkin--from way back in 2009--summarizing the real start of the movement, as a Tax Day/Stimulus Bill protest event:
Keli Carender, who blogs as “Liberty Belle” spread the word about a grass-roots protest she was organizing in Seattle to raise her voice against the passage of the trillion-dollar stimulus/porkulus/Generational Theft Act of 2009. It’s the first time she had ever jumped into political organizing of any kind. She is not affiliated with any “corporate lobbyist” or think tank or national taxpayers’ organization. She’s a young conservative mom who blogs. Amazingly, she turned around the event in a few days all on her own by reaching out on the Internet, to her local talk station, and to anyone who would listen...

On Feb. 21, the grass-roots Internet group, Top Conservatives on Twitter, founded by Michael Patrick Leahy and powered by Rob Neppell, announced “simultaneous local tea parties around the country, beginning in Chicago, and including Washington DC, Fayetteville NC, San Diego CA, Omaha Nebraska, and dozens of other locations” on Feb. 27. Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor was one of the rare national MSM reporters who attended one of the tea parties (Atlanta) and provided a fair and balanced look at protesters mad at both parties.
There's no question that the Tea Party movement originated among conservatives--fiscal conservatives--and libertarians. It was not a Republican thing at all, but politically savvy and opportunistic Republicans were quick to hitch their wagons to the movement, just as Democrats (and some libertarian-types) would later do with the Occupy Wall Street movement. And under that rubric, various groups and people more properly characterized as social conservatives (like the "religious right") became a part of the Tea Party movement, often thrusting their own non-Tea Party issues into events and the movement, proper.

As this occurred, those on the left unable to process the "why" behind the movement suddenly had workable explanations within their non-thinking grasp: the Tea Party was just another branch of the religious right, it was an astroturfing movement funded by powerful (and of course evil) conservatives like the Kochs or the Heritage Foundation, it was made up primarily of neolithic racists, and the like. And as these arguments were repeated ad nauseam in the echo chamber that is the mainstream media, year after year, they became accepted gospel among the majority of the left.

But now, in the matter of just a week or two, that phony narrative may very well collapse in a heap, thanks to our friends at the IRS.

For the root message of the Tea Party movement remains a simple one: more government means less freedom. And Tea Party folks take it as a given that more freedom is preferable to more government. Hence, they are opposed to excessive government spending, excessive taxation, and excessive government interference in daily life. Put simply, they desire a limited government.

And given such views, they expect--and have found--their political enemies to be big government and all those who would empower the same. As a matter of course, they also expect--rightly--big government bureaucracies to be both dehumanizing and autocratic; they fear these things. So it hardly came as a surprise to discover that the IRS appears to have been targeting them to suppress their voices, to protect big government, to preserve the status quo.

The actions if the IRS--in targeting tea party/conservative groups--has been excused by some as a response to a rapid increase in applications for tax exempt status following the Citizens United decision. The director of the IRS' Exempt Organizations Division, one Lois Lerner, initially made this claim, that the "targeting" was not malicious, but was simply an understandable reaction--by low-level officials--to this increase. And by and large, this excuse was swallowed whole by the press. Yet, it turns out to be completely untrue. As The Atlantic notes, there was no increase in 2010, the year this targeting began. In fact there were fewer applications in 2010 than there were in 2009. What there actually was in 2010 and not in 2009: an election.

Anther attempt to excuse the actions of the IRS centers around the idea that this targeting was actually justified in theory, if misapplied in practice. According to those trumpeting this view, the targeted groups deserved to be targeted because they were attempting to game the system; they had no justification to apply for 501(c)(4) status because they were not really the right kind of orgs for this status. Of course, groups who have had this status for a long time--like the now-defunct DLC, the ACLU, and People for the American Way--and who clearly pursue political goals are roundly ignored (because those goals favor big government, of course). But even more significantly, anecdotal evidence suggests the IRS was not just targeting conservative groups, it was giving preferential treatment to progressive/liberal ones at the same time:
Drew Ryun applied for permanent non-profit status for a group called “Media Trackers” in July 2011. Fifteen months later, he’d heard nothing. So he applied again under the eco-friendly name of “Greenhouse Solutions,” and was approved in three weeks.
This all smells like something that was mandated from above, to serve the current Administration. Yet, this need not be the case. It may be, but it need not be. For we are talking about large bureaucracies here. And the real rules of conduct for people therein, the only rules that most definitely lead to long-term successful careers as "public servants," are twofold: cover your own ass and kiss the ass of the person one level above you. Thus, government bureaucracies always tend to grow over time because bureaucrats--as a group--aren't really engaged in activities to do what's best for a country, they are simply doing what's best for themselves--or what they believe is such--within a narrow window of time, which translates on the whole as doing what's best for the bureaucracy. In this case, it's easy enough to expect Ms. Lerner and others at the IRS hit on a scheme to impress people up the ladder and went forward with it because they could go forward with it. There was nothing and no one standing in their way.

One might thus draw the conclusion that under a different President, a Republican President, the IRS could have just as easily targeted groups on the left in the same way, even under the same leadership inside the IRS, proper. But there is a caveat here: targeting tea party-type groups serves dual purposes: it pleases the people above and it protects the IRS--and government as a whole--from the criticism of people would see much of both dismantled, given the opportunity.

And the real Tea Party crowd is aware of all of this. They knew from the beginning they were bucking the system as a whole, not just one side of the ideological divide. And they knew there would be serious pushback. Much of that pushback has been public and from the left, but make no mistake: the status quo crowd in Washington has been less than happy. And that crowd includes both Democrats and Republicans, as well as--and more importantly--entrenched bureaucrats.

People in the Federal bureaucracies do not like hearing talk about shrinking the size of government. Older employees don't want to see their job security and massive benefits go up in smoke, while newer employees don't want to be deprived of the same benefits, perks, and security they have seen the older employees enjoy. And there are literally no bureaucrats (well okay, maybe a handful) ever willing to stand up and admit their jobs are superfluous, involve them doing pointless things, or things they know they have no business doing.

Sit back and imagine the carnage--just for a moment--if a corporate "efficiency expert" was unleashed on the Federal bureaucracies. And this is exactly the kind of scenario bureaucrats worry about if the Tea Party crowd gains too much power.

Who can really blame bureaucrats at the IRS--and everywhere else in the Federal Government--for trying to undermine the movement? But in so doing, they justify every fear, every concern the movement has. At the same time, their actions--with this targeting--prove the movement has the right of it, when it comes to big government: more government equals less liberty, there's no way around it.

So let's embrace this IRS scandal for what it really is: a moment of clarity wherein the ideologies of those who actually care about liberty can be easily separated from those willing to live in velvet handcuffs. Ask your friendly neighborhood Occupy protester or hard-core progressive about all of this. See where they stand. I promise you, you'll learn something.

Cheers, all.

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